Bario Neal Teams Up With Artist Xavier Schipani To Help Us Show Why LGBTQIA Visibility Matters In the Wedding Industry

By Sarah on June 27, 2018 at 11:49 am

Image of couples with various ethnicities, genders and orientations in a kiss.With Schipani’s “Infinite Love” print, Bario Neal will donate net proceeds to Voices4. This organization’s mission statement is one we can get behind: “Voices4 is a nonviolent advocacy group aimed at achieving global queer liberation. We envision a world where every queer person, regardless of where they live, will be able to fully express and embrace their identity how they choose and without fear, discrimination, or persecution of any kind. We utilize direct action to affect change, both nationally and internationally, around the treatment of queer people while building an interconnected global coalition of queer activists working to challenge the systems of power that enable and sanction queer persecution.”

Our intern, Taylor D’Amico, took the opportunity to interview Xavier Schipani about his work, why representation matters, how pop-culture and activism co-exist, and their experiences as trans* people shopping in traditionally gendered spaces. 


Did you know that the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation shows that more young Americans are rejecting traditional gender labels? 20% of 18-34-year-olds identify as socially fluid, queer, bisexual, or pansexual and 12% identify as transgender or gender nonconforming, all within the LGBTQIA lexicon.

Illustrated story of two men selecting their rings and getting married.

As some of you can imagine, shopping for traditionally gendered things as a trans* person can not only be difficult and stressful but can be dysphoric and be embarrassing at times. Being a transgender woman myself, I and many other trans*/queer people have experienced this situation one too many times. Anyone who doesn’t fall in the cisgendered norm of Male and Female knows this feeling all too well, whether you’re trans, non-binary, gender fluid, intersex, etc. For a transgender woman having to go out and buy her first bra, or a non-binary person going to a jewelry store and picking out their engagement ring, the situation can become very stressful. Specifically, in jewelry, we have to worry about things like the assumption of gender, sizing, and representation when we’re doing something as special and monumental as picking out an engagement ring. Since the jewelry industry is so traditional and gendered, Bario Neal wanted to change the shopping experience for all customers.

Two men share the experience of shopping for Bario Neal wedding bands.When dealing with gender and buying traditionally gendered products like jewelry, it can feel as if everything is so black and white, and by black and white we mean “male and female.” Men’s categories and Women’s categories are outdated and exclude gender non-conforming/non-binary people. Bario Neal focuses on describing the jewelry, not the identity of those who wear it. When products are organized into categories, Bario Neal uses more inclusive descriptions: Masculine or Feminine. Identifying men can shop in feminine, identifying women can shop in masculine, and gender non-conforming people can shop in either masculine, feminine, or gender neutral.

Two women in love selecting their engagement rings.

Same-sex couples also have many struggles when it comes to jewelry shopping, especially engagement ring shopping. Luckily, since the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in June of 2015 to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, shopping for engagement rings as a same-sex couple in 2018 is a lot less gut-wrenching than it was in 2008, just a decade ago. 10.6% of adult same-sex couples are married, coming close to the 13.6% of adult heterosexual couples in the US who are married. Same-sex couples don’t apply gender roles when searching for the perfect engagement ring, they don’t have to, and neither should cisgendered heterosexual couples. Social advances and the visible inclusion of the LGBTQIA community has encouraged many cisgendered heterosexual couples to kick these gender binary “rules” to the curb as well. If you see that special piece that gives you goosebumps or makes you smile as soon as you see it – go for it!

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When given the opportunity to interview Xavier Schipani, I was over the moon to have an important conversation relating to trans*, queer, and non-binary issues from two people who are actually within the community through Bario Neal’s platform. Having the platform to talk about LGBTQIA inclusion from someone who’s actually within the community is vital to the conversation of LGBTQIA related issues.

Taylor: Recently you collaborated with us here at Bario Neal for an upcoming campaign for Pride month, what’re some of your current favorite Bario Neal pieces?

Xavier: I really love the creativity of the settings on the rings! I was looking at them specifically because my wife and I have our 2nd Wedding Anniversary coming up this month. We both have September birthdays, so I love the Nikko Pear White Sapphire ring, I had never seen a white sapphire before, our birthstone!

Taylor: Your work is such a fantastic blend of activism combined with sex and contrasts of high and low design. Who are leaders in activism and sexual expression that inspire you?

Xavier: When I think about activism it’s important for me to understand the progress that has been made, what we are doing now and what needs to be done. Marsha P. Johnson is someone that comes to mind when I think of trans progress, she is what I would call my trancestor. For “Now” I am really inspired by a group called “Voices 4” they are based in New York, that focuses on amplifying the voices that are often suppressed within the LGBTQI communities all over the world. Emma Gonzales’ speech was incredible in the wake of tragedy, her voice and others from that generation give me hope for the future collective thought. I also think that this younger generation is helping create a conversation that is exciting about gender fluidity and sexuality, it’s fresh and open minded and so necessary.

Taylor: In modern times, how can we make representations of sex and gender revolutionary? How can brands participate in a meaningful and sincere way, while also supporting artists like you?

Xavier: I think that it is important to be inclusive, I think that there are a lot of identities that fall through the cracks even within the LGBTQIA community and are often left out or not even considered when it comes to representation. I think that a lot of brands are taking strides to be inclusive but there is always room for growth. I think that brands should want to have as many perspectives as possible, for example if I see a brand using a trans model in a campaign I am more likely to support it because I feel supported by it.

Taylor: What have your experiences with the wedding industry been like as a trans man? Being as though shopping for traditionally gendered things, like shopping for wedding or engagement jewelry, can be a lot for LGBTQIA people. What things would you want to change in the wedding industry overall?

Xavier: I had a really enjoyable experience, I know that isn’t the case for everyone however. I loved designing my wife’s engagement ring, I worked with one of her friends who also happens to be queer. I think that when you are in love and you choose to celebrate that publicly, you should do what feels right and find ways to make it comfortable and special for YOU. I think the one thing I would change is the level of pressure we put on ourselves for things to be “perfect” and to make up our own traditions as we go.

Taylor: Looking through your work, you depict so many gender representations and sexual orientations. Why do you think it’s important to explore this as an artist?

Being a creative artist as well as a voice within the art scene for trans/queer people, do you ever find it challenging to make art that is understandable to its audience? Or to find that certain voice/message for each of your pieces?

Xavier: I think that visibility is REALLY important, which not only means being seen by others but being represented, recognized and acknowledged in society. My point of view gives me a unique perspective and I feel passionate about sharing that through my work. Art can help us create language in a conversation that we don’t quite understand or feel like an outside participant, inclusion is so important in transcending barriers put up by a binary society. Something I tell myself and others is that “I see you always, in all ways” which I shared with Bario Neal while working on this campaign. I think this message is important in terms of what it means to transition not only in gender/identity but in all aspects of life.

Taylor: You reference a lot of pop culture and politics in your artwork, is this a personal choice to pay homage to people who inspire you within the community? Or is there more of an underlying message to reflect the way society interacts with celebrities?

Xavier: I think that pop culture and politics with the help of social media have become married in a huge way, which has its ups and downs I mean look at our President…he is a perfect example. I definitely like to pay homage to my queer peers, transcestors and those fighting the good fight within our current tumultuous political climate. We are in an interesting time where people are truly being held accountable for their actions in a way like never before and I think artistic expression is a powerful, energetic and educational tool that creates unity for change.  

Taylor: You recently did a collaboration with Refinery29’s 29Rooms that features a big project of yours, what was this process like for you to work with Refinery29 and to have such a powerful message of queer inclusivity when dealing with bathrooms?

Being as though Pride month is officially here, do you have any upcoming projects that you’re excited to share that you can tell us about?

Xavier: 29rooms will be in San Francisco for pride in a couple weeks and then the show will continue on to Chicago in July.

Collaborating on “Gender Neutral” room was important for me as a part of the LGBTQ community and it was an honor. The “bathroom” as a physical space holds a great range of meaning to different identities. For many of my peers it is a place where anxiety and fear holds them captive when they feel most vulnerable. This installation was about visibly telling a gender story of inclusion and a representation of bodies that are often seen only in turmoil. It is about creating a safe space.

Creating a safe space for someone to be in means more than telling them that it is safe, you have to show them that it is. Working with Refinery29 on this was amazing, they have such a great team and an amazing platform. They are a huge catalyst for the LGBTQIA community in terms of visibility and continue to show an incredible amount of support through education, storytelling and coverage within the community.

I have an upcoming solo show in that opens in June at the Lora Reynolds Gallery in Austin, TX. The show will be a combination of paintings and installation and is a commentary on the “fall of man” and toxic masculinity!  I just finished working on LadyLand a new queer festival that will take place during NYC pride, doing all of the branding! So June will be a very PRIDE-FULL month for me!


Be sure to follow Xavier to stay updated on all his upcoming and exciting projects here:

Instagram

Website

Buy Xavier Schipani’s print “Infinite Love” to benefit Voices4. Available for a limited time.

Bario Neal Is an Inclusive Jewelry Designer for Every Couple

By Sarah on June 6, 2018 at 2:24 pm

Masculine hand wearing Linear Hex Sapphire Ring, Reticulated Two Band, Open Lash Ring, and Aldine Thin BandWhen it comes to weddings, there’s an entirely too long list of supposed do’s that we’d like to ban right along with any laws that dictate who can marry who. The very last thing you should feel on the happy occasions of getting engaged or your wedding day is uncomfortable or awkward or discriminated against. With Pride Month underway, we’re calling out all the ways that the wedding industry pushes a story of “Mr. & Mrs.” that excludes so many couples.

When our co-founders, designers Anna Bario and Page Neal, started in the fine jewelry business, they knew they wanted to work to undermine the heteronormativity of the wedding industry. We’ve been rejecting stereotypes ever since.

One direct action we take: We make everyone — whether you are a same-sex couple, trans, non-binary, or whatever your gender identity, whoever you’re marrying —  feel at home in our showrooms in Philadelphia and New York City, whether you’re doing some early browsing, have a million questions about engagement rings, or are in a rush to make a purchase. We take this as seriously as we do the ethical sourcing and mining of gemstones and metals.

As we celebrate Pride Month and mark the third anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states, we know that fight’s not finished. We also are certain that inclusiveness benefits every person. Studies show that more equality is good for society as a whole, but we see this as a no-brainer. In the world of weddings, for sure the old wedding do’s and don’ts won’t fit many couples whatever their orientation. Here, six ways we’re crossing them all out.

1. We never make assumptions about your partner.

When you call, visit, or email Bario Neal’s showrooms in New York City or Philadelphia to talk engagement or wedding rings, we welcome you to tell us about your relationship and why you’re shopping. You might visit with a partner, a friend, or a parent. We don’t assume anything about gender, orientation, or age and we look to clients for cues about what a wedding ring means to you and whoever you’re marrying. Our team doesn’t use the word “bride” or “groom” — but of course, we’re happy to have you refer to yourselves with any moniker you choose. We focus on getting to know YOU — who your partner is, which pronouns you prefer — and of course, we wanna know when and where the wedding will be, and if you’ve picked out your dessert. (We have lots of opinions on cake.) We may even be able to connect you with an officiant or photographer you’ll love. Everyone deserves to be who they are and experience enthusiasm for their proposal planning or their big day. We want these moments to feel special for everyone who walks through our doors, regardless of age, orientation, or gender.

2. Our INCLUSIVE jewelry designs don’t have a gender.

For same-sex couples and heterosexual couples alike, we don’t subscribe to gendered jewelry. Pro-tip: Rings don’t have a gender. A subtle band of Fairmined gold. A vibrant cluster of gemstones. You’ll find our cases divided into sections like “Rings with Stones,” “Bands with Stones” and “Bands without Stones.” We want all of our clients to find the rings and bands they love and that have meaning to them. For us, that’s non-negotiable.

3. We don’t believe an engagement ring needs to be a surprise.

Whoever is doing the proposing (maybe you both are!), we love when partners come into our showrooms to shop together for engagement rings and wedding bands. Don’t get us wrong: Spontaneity gives us goosebumps too. If the two of you are into surprises, then we’re on board. However, we understand that buying a ring is a big choice.

There is a way to get the best of both worlds. There’s absolutely no reason that you have to have a ring for a proposal. One of our clients recently brought his partner into our Philadelphia showroom to begin custom designing a ring after they got engaged. He captured the upside perfectly: “Buying an engagement ring is a huge decision so why wouldn’t I want my partner there with me? In the end, we couldn’t be happier with the results, and I know I made the right choice by foregoing tradition and proposing without a ring.”

4. We don’t size up your wallet.

When you walk in our door, we’re not calculating how much money you have, or how much you can or will spend. Yes, we’re aware of the jewelry-industry-fueled myth that you should spend two to three months’ salary on an engagement ring. We just have no time at all for it, and we stay true to our principles by designing affordable rings. Our mission is to make jewelry of lasting value, and we know it can be awkward to ask about prices and talk about budget. We always aim to make visitors to our showrooms comfortable enough so we can talk about cost plainly and presumption-free. Once we have your budget, we stick to it, and we won’t push any rings on you that don’t fit your budget. Seriously, who does that? Rude!

5. The word “upsell” makes a cringe.

When it comes to engagement rings and wedding bands, we want you to be free from rules. You might not be interested in an “official” engagement ring. You might love to have an engagement ring but pass on wedding bands. We’re not going to try to sell you more rings, bigger stones, “care packages,” or anything you don’t want.

6. We won’t sell you on a diamond if you don’t want one.

We’ve made countless beautiful engagement rings without even so much as a glance at a diamond. First, there are so many other gemstones to embrace. There’s also that still a diamond but not the traditional one: champagne diamonds. We’ve made scores of “nontraditional” custom engagement rings over the years, and we love all their stories.

A belief in the right to love and marry whomever and however you choose is one of the core principles of Bario Neal’s jewelry. That’s reflected in our designs and in our showrooms. Stop into a New York City or Philadelphia shop today to see how “at home” you can feel while shopping for jewelry.

 

 

Crafting Change One Ethical Ring at a Time

By Constance on March 29, 2018 at 2:23 pm

Next time you splash water on your face and catch your ring’s reflection in the bathroom mirror, think of this: Where you buy your jewelry matters — to that tap water, to gold and gemstone miners, and more.

If that ring in the mirror is an ethical ring, then it’s connected to clean water, clean air, and fair and safe working conditions for miners.

To make our ethical rings, Bario Neal uses Fairmined gold and ethically sourced gemstones. Both make for a safer, cleaner jewelry option that supports, not endangers miners, and isn’t as damaging to the environment as most traditional mining. More than that, your Bario Neal ethical ring means fair trade and female empowerment, and benefits nonprofits that support miners and a more sustainable planet.

 

 

Rough Diamond Garnet Ethical Ring

This Custom ethical ring crafted with a Raw diamond, Fairmined gold and Tanzanian garnets has real-world impact.

 

One traditionally mined 18k gold ring creates 20 tons of waste. One ethical ring? Not even close.

When you buy an ethical ring, more money for food, shelter, and education goes to the miners and their families — instead of into the pockets of large corporations. Buying an ethical ring handcrafted with Fairmined metals or recycled metals and recycled gemstones or traceable gemstones helps create a more just economy.

Together, Bario Neal designers and our clients are carving an ethical path forward for the jewelry industry, one handmade, ethical ring at a time.

Thankfully, we’re not alone! Ethical rings were a focus at the Jewelry Industry Summit in NYC in March. Our co-founder Anna Bario organized the very first summit, and we gather there annually with our fellow industry trailblazers.
Anna Bario and Page neal Craft change one ethical ring at a time.
Anna Bario and Page Neal are industry leaders in sustainable jewelry. Photo by Cody Guilfoyle for Domino Magazine.

 

This year, we were so happy to see two familiar faces there as keynote speakers: Jen Marraccino from Pure Earth, a nonprofit that’s addressing pollution in low- and middle-income countries, and Cristina Villegas of Pact, a nonprofit that helps poor and marginalized people in 40 countries. We support the work of both organizations with donations and gemstone purchases.

 

“Emerging and Independent Jewelers” was the theme of the 2018 Jewelry Industry Summit.

 

Marraccino spoke about Pure Earth’s current focus on training artisanal gold miners about alternatives to using mercury. Mercury is an easy, cheap way to separate gold from other materials, but it’s highly toxic and endangers the environment and the health of these small-scale miners.

 

An ethical ring uses gold mined without mercury.
See the difference between gold recovered using mercury (left), and without? Photo courtesy of Pure Earth.

 

According to the United Nations, at least a quarter of the world’s gold supply comes from artisanal gold mining. The UN estimates that about 20 million gold miners, including 4.5 million women and 600,000 children, are poisoned by direct contact with toxic mercury. The released mercury also makes its way into our rivers and oceans.

 

your Bario Neal ethical ring means fair trade and female empowerment, and benefits nonprofits that support miners and a more sustainable planet.
A team from the Gemological Institute of America and Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Pact traveled to the Tanga Region in Tanzania to help more than 40 female miners make their work more lucrative. Photo courtesy of Pact.
Villegas discussed Pact’s outreach to the Tanzania Women Miners Association about responsible gemstone sourcing. Pact helps women, many of them novice miners, who are working to feed their families by selling what they find. The nonprofit educates them on accurately identifying and caring for higher-quality stones so their work can become more lucrative. (Check out Pact’s noteworthy Mines to Markets program.)

 

The 2018 Jewelry Industry Summit

At the 2018 Jewelry Industry Summit, we discussed abuses occurring across the jewelry industry as detailed in the recent Human Rights Watch report, “The Hidden Cost of Jewelry.”

 

This year’s Jewelry Industry Summit reinforced how vital it is for us to stay vigilant about avoiding metal and gemstone sources connected to unjust economies — and offering our clients beautiful ethical rings that make a positive difference to people and the planet. When you work with us on a handcrafted wedding ring of ethically sourced gemstones and Fairmined gold, you really are helping to change the world for the better, for women miners in Tanzania, for nonprofits like Pact and Pure Earth, and beyond.

 

The Ethereal, Ancient Art of Enamel

By Constance on February 22, 2018 at 2:09 pm

The union of chance and material. This describes perfectly the ancient process for the ethereal art of enamel. To realize our signature pieces, we work with Joan Strott Alvini, an experienced artist and one of the first women to work on Philadelphia’s Historic Jeweler’s Row. Part art, part science, the look of each drop of color is as important to us as the form.

 

Ancient, ethereal art of enamel

Contemporary Enamel: An ancient art gets a modern update.

 

Like a ceramicist searching for the perfect glaze, our enamelist experiments with a cabinet of potions to create the colors, which react to each metal differently when fired. Once the chemical combination is perfect, forming the exact shade also depends on the translucent suspension of colored glass. Then, like the metal itself, the molten liquid becomes a solid as the glass flows into our grooved, organic forms, reflecting light under the surface like a pool of water.

 

Ancient art of enamel

The Senna collection began as a single sleek black circle.

 

Though our enamel designs are modern, this process is ancient. Enameled rings from the 13th century B.C. were found during the 1952 excavation of a tomb in Kouklia, Cyprus. Believe it or not, the process hasn’t changed much in the last 3,000 years!

Enamel is glass fused to a metal surface. Most often, the glass is a blend of silica (or sand), soda, lime, and borax. This mix creates a clear, colorless enamel called flux. It can be transparent, opaque or opalescent (translucent), and an enormous range of colors can be made by adding metal oxides to the flux.

 

Ancient, Ethereal Art of Enamel

Enamel was applied to pottery and stone in ancient Egypt, and used on metal by ancient Greek, Roman, Russian, Chinese, and Celtic cultures.

 

The color range and handcrafted quality of glass enamel, aka vitreous enamel, makes it a beautiful and long-lasting choice. Because the glass binds to the metal when fired, glass enamel can only adhere to specific alloys of precious metals. When worn with care, it can last for several lifetimes. The less durable, cheaper alternative, Resin enamel– not so much. More of a fashion than a forever choice, Resin, aka cold enamel, is essentially plastic and scratches easily.

 

Ancient, ethereal art of enamel

We create long-lasting glass enamel rings, earrings and bracelets in a range of colorful shapes.

 

Alvini reminds us that many of the colors we see today are made with the same pigments as those used by early Byzantine artists. Transparent cobalt blue, for example, is created from black oxide of cobalt and powdered flint glass. Opalescent colors require the addition of more oxide of tin. After the enamel is applied, the entire piece is fired in a kiln. During firing, the enamel powder melts, flows, and hardens to form a smooth and durable surface.

Enameling metal surfaces uses a variety of techniques. A few of the most common techniques used in jewelry are:

 

  • Champlevé, where troughs or cells carved into the surface of a metal object and filled with vitreous enamel.
  • Cloissoné, which uses thin wires to form raised barriers which contain different areas of enamel above the metal base.
  • Limoges & Grisaille, where enamel is painted on.
  • Plique-à-jour, in which enamel is applied in cells, with no backing, like stained-glass.

 

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Production process of a Cloissoné vase by Ando Cloisonné Company in Nagoya.

 

We asked Alvini a few questions about her own studio practices and how she works safely with substances like cadmium and barium. Most of what Joan describes are common-sense safety measures:

 

“Don’t eat, drink, or smoke in the studio. Always wash hands frequently and clean work benches with wet towels or rags. Always wear a mask when sifting powders and grind under water.”

 

Many enamelists have struggled lately with tighter restrictions on metal oxides and other substances used in the process. In particular, lead-bearing vs. lead-free enamels is an industry debate worth noting. U.S. regulations made it difficult to produce lead-bearing enamels. The last domestic supplier, Thompson Enamel stopped making them in 1990. But with this art, it’s the preferences and needs of the artist that determine the success of the materials.

 

“The important thing is to teach people how to work with these materials correctly and safely.” –Joan Strott Alvini

 

Contemporary enamel jewelry

We have two new diamond halo designs: the Senna Diamond Halo Ring and the Enamel Arc Halo Ring.

 

Another important element of working with enamels is controlling the waste stream. Alvini uses a precious metal drain trap to catch all the waste she generates while grinding wet. Along with metal dust, this is sent to a refiner to trap all waste and filter out toxic materials.

 

We made a short video of Alvini in her Jeweler’s Row workshop. Watch below to see this talented artist’s process:

 

 

Shop our entire line of enamel jewelry here. Interested in using this colorful, ancient technique in a Custom Design or personalizing one of ours? Just get in touch with your idea via our Custom Design Questionnaire.

 

 

Worthy Causes: Pure Earth and Planned Parenthood

By Constance on April 11, 2016 at 11:01 am

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The Pure Gold Auction + Benefit Bash

 

Happy Monday! This week we switch out the winter wardrobe for spring party attire to celebrate two of the most worthy causes we can imagine:  The Pure Gold Auction + Benefit Bash and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern PA’s annual spring fundraiser. 

First, we teamed up with Pure Earth’s Pure Gold Auction and Benefit Bash to prevent mercury poisoning caused by gold mining. You can bid from wherever you are on our “nuggets of pure gold,” the Bog Earrings in 14kt Fairmined, until the actual benefit on Tuesday, April 12.

“Mercury and gold mining are inextricably linked. A quarter of the world’s supply of gold comes from artisanal gold mining, which leads to the release of approximately 1000 tons of toxic mercury a year. Of the 20 million artisanal gold miners, an estimated 2.5 million are women and over 600,000 are children.” – www.pureearth.org 

To learn more about the dangers of mercury exposure through artisanal mining and our efforts to avoid it by using Recycled and Fairmined gold, read Pure Earth’s recent interview with Anna Bario and our existing blog post. 

Visit the  Auction + Benefit Bash page to see event details, bid, donate and watch a video detailing the hazards of mercury globally and mercury’s relation to gold mining.

 

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Swing into Spring at the Young Advocates of Philadelphia

 

This weekend brings a chance to dust off the dancing shoes right here in Philadelphia at the Young Advocates of Philadelphia’s Annual Fundraiser in support of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania. Women’s reproductive health is very personal cause for the staff at Bario Neal and we are so proud to be a sponsor for what is sure to be the event of the spring.

Please consider supporting Planned Parenthood at a local or national level, and if you are in Philly, maybe we’ll see you at the William Way Center on Saturday night?

See event details for the Planned Parenthood benefit here or on Facebook.

Holiday Give to Education Sale: December 9th-23rd

By Alyssa on December 3, 2015 at 3:38 pm
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 Art by students in the Congreso after school program
 Our Holiday Give to Education Sale is almost here! December 9th-23rd Bario Neal, will offer a 25% discount on boutique jewelry and a 10% discount on fine earrings & necklaces with your donation of an art supply to benefit Congreso After School Program, a Philadelphia education initiative. This percentage will be donated to the Malawi Dzone development project to benefit the education and health of communities surrounding the Chimwadzulu Mine, a major source of our sapphires.
sapphire slice stud earrings
Please note, this sale is in stores only. Our New York Showroom will be open for walk-in shopping December 12th-13th & December 19th-20th from 11-6! Philadelphia location open extended hours.
Congreso’s art supply wishlist includes: beads, comic drawing pages & books, markers, drawing paper, construction paper, drawing pencils, colored pencils, tie dye kits, white tee shirts, paint (tempura & acrylic), tissue paper, pipe cleaners, elmer’s glue, & small paint brushes. Not only will you receive a discount for your donation to Congreso, but we will donate a portion of the proceeds from this sale to the Malawi Dzonze development projects– you give and we give to education.
Congreso is a non-profit 501 (c)3 organization based in Philadelphia, PA and founded in 1977 with the mission of strengthening Latino communities through social, economic, education and health services, as well as leadership development and advocacy. Congreso offers countless invaluable services to adults, families, and youths in the Philadelphia community, and your donation will specifically go to its after school program, which offers vital enrichment and educational support in academics, dance, music, visual arts, sports, science, and technology. Students in the after school program benefit from well respected programs including Girls Today, Leaders Tomorrow (GTLT), Transitions Program, Family Engagement, and Tutoring and Senior Project Support. Congreso’s numerous awards include Philly.com’s top work places for 2014 and 2015, and NLCR Affiliate of the Year Award, and Leap of Reason.
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 Art projects completed by students in the Congreso After School Program
The Malawi Dzonze Development Project was established in 2008 by Nyala Mines Limited in collaboration with Columbia Gem House, a mining, cutting and marketing company committed to corporate social responsibility (csr). The Project’s mission is to raise funds for projects that will directly benefit communities surrounding the Chimwadzulu Mine, a producer of sapphires and rubies where Bario Neal sources many of our colored gemstones. Focus areas for funding include agriculture, education, environment, health, sports, and drinking water projects, and the project is directed by the managing director and local community nominees. The Project has delegated funding to the Kandoma Primary School to help pay for the employment of qualified teachers and assistants, teaching and learning materials, construction of school water and sanitation facilities, construction of two classroom blocks, and over 300 desks for students. Funding comes directly from the sale of Nyala rubies and sapphires. Columbia Gem House also conducts fundraising through specific promotions for its retail clients. With these two combined sources, the Project has 1 million US dollars budgeted for projects through 2020, making the Malawi Dzonze Development Project the most successful CSR model in Malawi.
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Hospital in Malawi
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School (two classroom blocks)
Consider donating one of these supplies to receive 25% off boutique jewelry or 10% off fine jewelry earrings and necklaces.

Trunk Show with Top Notch Faceting on June 14th

By admin on May 24, 2015 at 1:57 pm

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Bario Neal at the 5th Annual IAC Gold Conference

By Alyssa on March 25, 2015 at 10:34 am

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From the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Mask, 1st century B.C.–1st century A.D.
Colombia; Ilama
Gold; H. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm)
Jan Mitchell and Sons Collection, Gift of Jan Mitchell, 1991 (1991.419.39)

 

Initiatives in Art and Culture (IAC) will host its fifth annual Gold Conference Thursday, April 9 – Friday, April 10, 2015 at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, 365 5th Ave, NY, NY. Bario Neal is excited to be attending what promises to be an informative and engaging event. This year’s conference will take a comprehensive look at gold jewelry and the precious metal itself, with a focus is on transparency, trends and techniques within the gold industry. More specifically, topics such as the emotional power of this precious metal, its enduring cultural value, trends and trend forecasting, developments in the marketplace, marketing techniques, ensuring customers of the quality and ethicality of their purchases, extraction and metalsmithing techniques, cutting-edge technologies, educating the next generation of jewelers, marketing, ethical mining issues, FTC updates on issues relating to Dodd-Frank and Made in America, among others, will be covered. In addition to the formal presentations on this wide range of topics, IAC has organized private evening receptions and viewings at Aaron Faber Gallery and Doyle & Doyle, as well as book signings.

This year’s presenters include Master goldsmiths Daniel Brush and Barbara Heinrich; jewelers Alishan Halebian, Susan Helmich, Jose Hess, Ana Khouri, Anita Ko, Alison Chemia, and Elizabeth Doyle of Doyle & Doyle; David Bouffard, VP, Corporate Affairs, Signet Jewelers; Mark Hannah, CMO, Richline Group; Matthew Hart, author, Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal; Rob Bates, Senior Editor, JCK; Michelle Graft, Editor-in-chief, National Jeweler, Claudia Mata, Accessories and Jewelry Director, W, Jack Ogden, historian and industry consultant; Benjamin Zucker, renowned collector; Cecelia Gardner, President, CEO, and General Counsel, Jewelers Vigilance Committee; Mark B. Mann, Director, Global Jewelry Manufacturing Arts, Gemological Institute of America, and many more.

You can find registration information on this website. Click here to view full event flyer.

Initiatives in Art and Culture is an organization that aims to provide educational opportunities in the fine, decorative, and visual arts through conferences, publications and exhibitions. Primary issues examined include fabrication, connoisseurship, cultural patrimony, cultural preservation, and the future of culture with particular focuses on American painting, precious substances, the history of frames, the Arts and Crafts movement, the influence of Asian cultures on American fine and decorative art, and the history and future of fashion.

Upcoming Conference: Reclaiming the Sierra, April 20-21

By Alyssa on March 12, 2015 at 2:43 pm

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Twice a year Reclaiming the Sierra, a strategic campaign of The Sierra Fund, hosts a conference in Sacramento, California–at one point the gleaming center of the California Gold Rush. Believe it or not, even though the original gold rush happened in the mid 1800’s-early 1900’s, effects of the historical mining activities continue to impact the region today. Reclaiming the Sierra is dedicated to addressing those ongoing impacts of legacy mining. Continue reading Upcoming Conference: Reclaiming the Sierra, April 20-21

Top Notch Faceting’s Jean Noel Soni

By admin on September 13, 2014 at 5:38 pm

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Jean-Noel Soni is the mastermind behind Top-Notch Faceting. Jean creates award-winning, precision cut gemstones that are ethically-sourced, cut by hand, and created without the use of computer-aided design . In his words, the unique facets in his gemstones are “all figured by man.” I had the opportunity to take a peek at his notebook and the degree of detail and geometry that goes into every gemstone is remarkable. Speaking with Jean, it’s clear that he is incredibly knowledgeable about the materials he sources, and is passionate about his process and unique perspective on the industry.

Jean-Noel Soni’s interest in gemstones began at an early age. Raised by his mother, a collector of antique jewelry, Jean was surrounded by intricate vintage trinkets as well as his mother’s talented jeweler friends. His introduction to gemstone cutting started in 2009, taking a once-a-week class at the Randall Museum in San Francisco. The curriculum was solely in cabochon cutting, or stones that are polished and shaped without facets. Jean’s interest in gemstone cutting took off.  Jean states that cabochon cutting is very precise and this experience aided his understanding in creating the dimensions for a stone.

Since Randall didn’t offer classes in facet cutting, Jean decided to take matters into his own hands. Saving money to spend on gem cutting equipment every few months, Jean turned to how-to books in gemstone faceting, including a vintage German book his mother owned from 1896.  At this point, it seemed clear that gemstone cutting was Jean’s calling. Jean picked out other books from the library, paying close attention to the detailed diagrams, illustrating interesting facets and techniques.

16.10ctOregonSunstoneBefore

16.10ctOregonSunstoneAfter

More or less self-taught, Jean’s work is precise and thoughtful.  He strives to create heirlooms from gemstones with the understanding that the material is finite. Never creating the same stone twice, Jean takes the needed time to design each stone. “For me, I really enjoy the challenge of taking whatever shape is presented to me and changing that into a gemstone. It can be challenging depending on the shape of the stone.”

Browsing through Jean’s instagram he is clearly prolific. “I love to work. I love the challenge and the ritual.” He was kind enough to send us a few before and after shots of stones, as well as a few shots from his studio. The transformation of a rough stone into a gem is quite magical and even sculptural.

17.46ctRhodoliteGarnetBefore

17.46ctRhodoliteGarnetAfter

4.82ctImperialGarnetBefore

4.82ctImperialGarnetAfter

1.87ctBenitoiteBefore 1.87ctBenitoiteAfter

1.79ctNigerianSapphireBefore

1.79ctNigerianSapphireAfter

“I use an older faceting machine. By machine, it is only a motor that spins round grinding wheels in different grits, horizontally. Each facet on every stone is ground down in finer and finer grits until each is polished. The trick lies in keeping all the facets at the proper depth and keeping symmetry. [This is] all done by eye and hand. There is also a whole other slew of things that go into cutting a gem including orientation of the crystal, dopping (attaching) the stone to a quill with wax so it doesn’t fall off and polishing, which is it’s own science by itself. I do not use any computer programs for my work at all. The materials are all very different and I feel that computers can only account for so much. Besides it’s more fun to figure out the stones with my own head.”

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I asked Jean about his views in the gemstone industry and appreciated his honest and critical approach. He mentioned that often in the industry, gems are cut for optimal weight, rather than precision cutting, which brings out natural beauty of the stone. “In the commercial gemstone cutting industry, it’s business as usual.” Jean notes that in the industry, people source cheaper materials rather than the quality of stone, but notes that a few people, such as himself, are searching for high quality products.

Jean prides himself in his ethical sourcing, saying the best way to ensure that a stone is ethical is to work small and stay local. Jean works directly with miners, traveling to places as diverse as Romania, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka. His stones are  vibrant, clear, and untreated. Some of his favorite stones to work with are garnets and zircons. Every once in a while, Jean will find a zircon stone with a phenomena called double-refraction, which creates an almost double-vision effect. “You’re essentially watching the molecules vibrate.”

Please join us at NextFab Studios for a discussion with Jean-Noel Soni about his practice on September 24th, from 5-7PM. Please sign up here: https://nextfab.ticketleap.com/jewelry-lecture/dates/Sep-24-2014_at_0500PM

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